Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
They Said It:
Cos I, I wanna be anarchy!
How many ways to get what you want
I use the best I use the rest
I use the N.M.E
I use anarchy
Cos I, I wanna be anarchy!
The only way to be!
I wanna be anarchy
And I wanna be anarchy
Know what I mean
And I wanna be anarchist!
I’m getting pissed! Destroy!
The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy in the U.K.,” 1977.
ANARCHY IN THE U.S.A.
Last week, Milo Yiannopoulos, a media gadfly and the technology editor at Breitbart.com, was scheduled to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. As you may have heard, though, Milo did not get the chance to make that speech because his mere presence on campus prompted the usual suspects – the delicate snowflakes and other wannabe radicals – to take to streets, where they screamed, shouted, stomped their feet, and chanted various “hey-hey, ho-ho” slogans at no one in particular.
You see, Milo makes the campus Left very uncomfortable. He is young(ish). He is Jewish. He is gay. And he’s a conservative. This isn’t supposed to happen. People like Milo are not supposed to be conservatives. Moreover, they’re not supposed to be provocative conservatives. Rather, people like Milo are supposed to be nice, peaceful, multiculti-conformists. When they get political, they’re supposed to demand things like “equality” and “diversity.” They’re not supposed to demand that people explain what those terms mean or why they’re important. Whatever else he may say or do – and it is not our purpose here to defend him – Milo is anathema to the Left, and he causes its gentler souls to lose their minds, which is precisely what they did in Berkeley last week. The New York Post provides the details:
Hours before the planned speech, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators at the event were carrying signs reading, “Hate speech is not free speech.”
But the situation turned violent when a smaller group of protesters wearing masks and black hooded sweatshirts began shooting off fireworks and hurling metal barricades into storefront windows.
They then started a large bonfire outside the auditorium where Yiannopoulos was to speak and busted up the Starbucks.
These “protests” were ugly and brutal. Trump supporters and Milo fans were jeered and assaulted. At least one was knocked unconscious by the mob and countless others were threatened or chased. It seems that not only do controversial speakers not have the right to speak on some campuses, but individual taxpaying, tuition-paying Americans do not have the right to listen to them either.
As luck would have it, later last week, on the opposite coast, another right-leaning provocateur, the journalistic entrepreneur Gavin McInness, attempted to give the speech for which he was being paid. As at Berkeley, these protests at NYU started peacefully enough, but then the crowd grew restive, and violence and mayhem ensued. A good time was had by all – all, that is, except for the people who were prevented from entering the building by the violent mob. According to the NYPD, 11 people were arrested.
Like so much of what’s happening these days in American politics, this story is rife with possible avenues for discussion. For one thing, it provides an opportunity to talk about the Left and its hypocrisy regarding the “freedom of expression” in this country. As it turns out, members of this odd political fraternity are adamant about the right to free speech when said “speech” involves government-funded “artists” who put the crucifix in urine or stick bullwhips up the backside of oiled, naked men. They lose their enthusiasm, though, when the “speech” involves an actual, literal speech by someone with whom they disagree. In this latter case, speech can and should be curtailed because “hate is not speech” or because “Nazis are mean” or because gay Jewish men are offensive . . . or . . . well . . . something. In any case, the hypocrisy is glaring.
Another possible discussion would focus on the relationship between Washington and the individual states. As you may have heard, President Trump’s reaction to the riots at Berkeley was a little unexpected. The snowflakes are used to people speaking to them in calm, soothing tones and trying to understand their pain. Trump, by contrast, called them a menace to our constitutional freedoms and threatened to respond to their unwillingness to uphold basic American ideals by cutting off federal funding for the University of California system. This threat raises all sorts of interesting questions. Does the president have that power? If he does, should he use it? And if he does use it, how does that affect the university, the state of California, and the now-conventional guarantee of federal funding for state projects?
For our money, though, the most intriguing question raised by the violent, riotous attacks on free speech is “who is behind them?” Conventional liberals – in Berkeley, in New York, in Portland, and in DC – claim that riots are beneath them. They are calm, quiet, and respectable. They chant their chants and carry their signs, but they don’t burn things, and they don’t beat up people they don’t like, and they don’t smash the windows of Starbucks. Where else would they get their venti double caramel latte, after all? These liberals insist that all of this craziness, all of this violence is caused not by them, but by “outside agitators,” who not only have nothing to do with them and their complaints but may in fact be working for the “other side.”
As a general rule, we try to avoid picking on crazy old men in these pages (pots, kettles, and all that), but one of our favorite aged loonies, the former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, was among those who was most upset by the presence of outsiders causing trouble at Berkeley, where he is currently on faculty. Reich’s assessment of the outsiders was both priceless and perfectly apropos given the current media-academic apoplexy. In a Newsweek op-ed, Reich wrote:
As you may know, on Wednesday night, February 1, Berkeley gave Yiannopoulos a major forum to spout his racist and misogynistic vitriol. But police had to cancel the talk because about 150 masked agitators threw Molotov cocktails, smashed windows where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak and threw rocks and fireworks at the police – delivering made-for-TV images of a riot . . .
Which raises the possibility that Yiannopoulos and Brietbart were in cahoots with the agitators, in order to lay the groundwork for a Trump crackdown on universities and their federal funding . . . I don’t want to add to the conspiratorial musings of so many about this very conspiratorial administration, but it strikes me there may be something worrying going on here. I wouldn’t bet against it.
Ah. That’s fun. We’re not sure, but we think that the verb that applies here is “beclown,” as in “Robert Reich went full 9/11-truther the other night and beclowned himself.” It’s too bad really. It would have been fun if Reich were right about this, rather than simply nuts. For one thing, we would find it a little reassuring to know that the Trump team is capable of pulling off such a caper and not getting caught. Additionally, and more importantly, we would like to go down in history as the writers who coined the term naming the tactic by which the “fascists” took control of the United States. The “RobertReichstag Fire,” kinda has a nice, historical ring to it, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, Reich has no proof of any sort of conservative “false flag” operation, only a “feeling.” We don’t doubt that he “wouldn’t bet against” his conspiracy theory, but we suspect that that most sane people would. All the more so since there exists a far more logical and far more demonstrable explanation for the presence of non-student agitators on the Berkeley campus last week. Indeed, the Oakland “chapter” of Black Lives Matter openly trumpeted its participation in the riot, as did a handful of other outside groups, all claiming to be “anarchists” dedicated to the cause of “anti-fascism,” or “AtiFa,” as they call themselves.
In the two-plus weeks since Donald Trump was inaugurated, we’ve been trying to get a handle on the “opposition,” the people who define themselves in terms of their willingness to not like the new president. We are still intrigued by the “women’s march” and by its potential importance. But at this point, we’re not convinced that this is a real, enduring movement. Rather, we suspect that the long-term opposition to the Trump presidency will come from the anarchists, the violent types who desperately want the world to see them as the face of the “resistance.” These violent anarchists possess all of the energy, all of the emotion, much the organization, and a good deal of the funding supplied by various pseudo-reputable organizations and activists, some of whom may or may not be financed by billionaire Hungarian-American political malcontents. The day after the Berkeley riot – which was also the day before the NYU riot – USA Today described these anarchists and their tactics as follows:
The protest’s organizers, the Berkeley Against Trump coalition, said the peaceful acts of the 1,500 demonstrators were marred by 50 to 75 anti-fascist Black Bloc protestors.
Outside of Berkeley, media outlets have linked Black Blocs to a number of modern protests, most recently in efforts opposing President Donald Trump. The Nation credits a Black Bloc protestor with punching alt-right leader Richard Spencer in the face on Trump’s inauguration day. The Washington Post said Black Blocs were involved with violent protests in Washington, D.C. on inauguration day and in Portland following Trump’s election win.
On Wednesday, Twitter users used the term in describing the protesters at Berkeley. . . .
In a 2015 article published in Police Magazine, author Kory Flowers said anarchists use protests such as the ones in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of Michael Brown, to launch their signature “chaos- and havoc-laden tactics.” The article described Black Bloc strategy as “throngs of criminal anarchists all dressed in black clothing in an effort to appear as a unified assemblage, giving the appearance of solidarity for the particular cause at hand.” . . .
Black Bloc gained attention in the United States in 1999 after violent protests at a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. . .
It’s interesting that these anarchists trace their roots back to the 1999 Seattle WTO protests. We don’t expect any of you to remember this, but way back then, we wrote an article about those very same anarchists and about their antics in Seattle, which, not coincidentally, targeted the most successful Democratic president since Roosevelt. We suggested that these troublemakers represented the wave of the Democratic future. This wave was delayed, of course, first by the rise of Islamic terrorism and the attendant wars, and then by the false hope of Barack Obama. However, it appears to have arrived in due time, and it will, we think, prove our original premise.
If this is so – and we have far more reason to believe it now than we had back in 1999 – then it is likely that anarchism will play a prominent role in American society for the remainder of the Trump presidency, be that four or eight years. And if this is the case, then we think it might be of worthwhile to take a brief look at anarchy and its history.
For starters, anarchism is not a desire for no governance. It is NOT an ideology dedicated to the individual and to each person doing only as he sees fit, living in complete and total freedom, with no legal authority to keep him from achieving his own personal happiness. Rather, anarchism is an ideology based on opposition to hierarchy specifically, to the vast networks of government agents and agencies, each intent on taking its only little piece of each man and owning a piece of his liberty. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the so-called “father of anarchism” put it this way:
To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place[d] under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.
At the time – the mid-19th century – anarchism was seen by many, including Proudhon, as a viable and necessary alternative to socialism and especially to socialism’s compulsory massive state apparatus. Nevertheless, anarchism and its supporters shared the Marxists’ hatred of capitalism and of the private property that enabled it. It was Proudhon, not Marx, who wrote that “property is theft.” Like their leftist cousins, the anarchists were revolutionists, intent on destroying the extant government and replacing it with an egalitarian model. Unlike the socialists, though, their model did not include confiscation of all property by the state, for this, they believed, would simply mean trading one authoritarian oppressor and owner of everything for another.
In theory then, anarchism served a different master than did Marxism. Marx pitched his revolution to “the workers,” the downtrodden, the lowest and most exploited creatures of the early capitalist state. “Workers of the world unite,” and all that. Anarchism, by contrast, was much more concerned with the petty bourgeois, the middle class that made society run and that would stand to lose everything under Marx’s revolution.
For our purposes today, the most important characteristic of anarchism its dedication to providing a middle-class-acceptable revolutionary alternative to socialism. You see, as Marx correctly noted, Proudhon was a champion of the “class moyenne.” He was a bona fide revolutionary who hated capitalism, but he also hated socialism. He hated the idea that socialism’s confiscation of ALL of the means of production would necessarily harm – would indeed destroy – the middle class. Proudhon’s heart was with the small shopkeepers, the artisans, the worker-owners. After all, he was the son of a cooper and had managed his own printing operation. People like him and his father were not only threatened by capitalists, with their machines and their Jewish bankers, whom Proudhon detested, but also by socialism and Marxism, which regarded them as the enemy whose businesses needed to be stolen and nationalized.
As the historian J. Salwyn Schapiro explained it, Proudhon chose anarchism because it was “an antidote to socialism.” His problem then was “How to preserve property rights and, at the same time, abolish capitalism? How to safeguard the small property owner against his economic enemies: big business and revolutionary socialism?”
Proudhon’s answer to this question is both beyond the scope of this essay and mostly irrelevant, historically speaking. What matters is that Proudhon’s affinity for the middle class, his efforts to find a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, his hatred for Jewish bankers and for Marxism, are ALL foundational principles of both Mussolini’s fascism and Hitler’s National Socialism.
The irony here is rich. You see, the protesters, the rioters, the mainstream media, the Democrats, and even some on the Right (Bill Kristol, we’re looking at you) think that the Trump administration represents incipient fascism. For whatever reason, they’ve determined that running an idiosyncratic campaign and then having the gall to keep that campaign’s promises is Hitler-esque. Trump is Hitler. His aides are Goebbels. His intellectual apologists are Carl Schmitt. And so on. Indeed, as we noted above, the rioters call themselves “AntiFa,” which is to say “anti-fascists.”
Yet, when angry mobs patrol the streets, wearing all black, breaking windows, attacking unlucky or unfavored businesses, violently preventing nonconformists from speaking, and beating their supporters, “anti”-fascism isn’t exactly the term that springs to mind. And when these mobs embrace anarchism as an ideology, the questions about their own ultimate intentions grow even more pointed.
You see, anarchism is always – always, mind you – marked by violence. Why? Because anarchism has two parts. It is both a philosophical ideology AND a call to action against hierarchies. Proudhon was attracted to the intellectual aspect. But someone had to deal with part two, with the hierarchies. That job fell to Proudhon’s two most famous partners, Michael Bakunin and the Russian Prince Peter Kropotkin.
Bakunin and Kropotkin took to their tasks with both relish and skill. Bakunin earned his spurs in 1849 during an uprising in Dresden, where he manned the barricades with the great German composer Richard Wagner. He was arrested and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life and he spent two years chained to a wall in an Austrian prison and then was sent back to Russia where he served six more years under brutal conditions in the infamous Fortress of Peter and Paul. He was eventually exiled to Siberia, where he escaped via Japan, San Francisco, the Panama Canal, New York, Boston, Liverpool, and finally to London where we walked in on his old friend, writer and Russian revolutionary Alexander Herzen while he was having dinner and declared that “I shall continue to be an impossible person so long as those who are now possible remain possible.”
Kropotkin’s father was a wealthy prince of the Rurik dynasty. It was one of Europe’s oldest royal families having ruled Russia before the Romanovs. Young Peter had once been a page at the court of the Tsar; he had served in the Russian military; and he was a highly respected geographer who did extensive work in Siberia. Over the years, however, he dropped the title of prince, became enthralled by the fight for the emancipation of the serfs, took an interest in in the worker’s movement in Europe, and was particularly taken by reports of the Paris Commune that ruled France for a brief period following the Franco-Prussian War. He went to Switzerland where he encountered Bakunin’s close friend James Guillaume and became a committed anarchist.
In 1874, Kropotkin returned to Russia and became engaged in revolutionary activities. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Fortress of Peter and Paul. In his Memories, he describes the horrible conditions there and notes that he kept his faith by thinking of Bakunin who had survived six years there and had emerged “fresher and fuller of vigor than his comrades who had remained at liberty.” After two years, he escaped with the help of friends. He stayed in London for a while. Then he went back to France where he was arrested for engaging in revolutionary activities and imprisoned for four years, from 1882 to 1886. He then moved back to London, where he spent the next thirty-five years writing anarchist books and pamphlets inciting workingmen around the world to violence against the established order, and, according to his biographer “raised anarchism to its final apotheosis of violence and who gave it the semi-mystical and religious connotation it has had ever since.”
Needless to say, Marx hated and feared the anarchists. After all, if the proletariat ever adopted their extreme egoism, they would most probably find that Marx’s dream of a “worker’s paradise” not worth the trouble. And this is why we believe that the Democrats are likely to have a very serious problem with the anarchist wing of their party in the years ahead.
At this point, the American Left is wandering in the proverbial wilderness. It has no idea what it is doing or why. Its greatest minds are desperately trying to formulate a new paradigm to replace the worn out centrism of the Clintons and the tired cultural leftism of Obama. The problem they all face is that there really seems to be no spirit, no fight among the conventional forces. It is true that a large crowd of women marched the day after President Trump was inaugurated, but their protest was hackneyed. It was trite and, frankly, jaded. It attempted to refocus the Left’s energy on the very political strategy that failed last November. Moreover, it was a march conducted by and for the privileged classes, not for the poor and downtrodden.
As best we can tell, the only truly spirited component of the contemporary American Left consists of those proto-fascist anarchists who don’t give any more of a damn about the Democratic establishment in Washington than they do about Trump. They’re unhappy. They’re angry. And they want to tear things down. But they don’t exactly want Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Elizabeth Warren building the utopia that comes next.
In the wake of the riots last week at Berkeley, a prominent but anonymous “anarchist” twitter user bragged about the violence and about his participation in criminal acts against Trump/Milo supporters. Much to the consternation of the “outside agitator” theorists, it turns out that this twitter user – and thus an anarchist thug who violently attacked people – is, in fact, on the staff at the University. Even more interestingly, he seems to kind of regret that fact, to find his work meaningless, just like everything else in his world. As the Daily Caller reports:
Sleuths on Twitter quickly pointed out that the person behind this @teen_archer account was likely a UC Berkeley staff member named Ian Dabney Miller. Further Daily Caller investigation has confirmed that Ian Miller, a UC Berkeley staffer, is indeed the person behind the @teen_archer account that was bragging about getting into fights with Milo attendees and participating in the riots.
In an interview with SF Weekly, Miller, who plays in the band “Kowloon Walled City,” talks about working at the university, saying, “I work at UC Berkeley in advancement communications. There’s really not much to say about it, frankly. It’s incredibly tedious.”
Perfect. Ian Miller: spoiled, self-absorbed lost boy. Hates his job, hates his life, and wants to beat people up for disagreeing with him. Also, he’s “anti-fascist.” But here’s the best part. According to the Daily Caller, Miller’s archived biography describes him as a fan of “music, bikes, film, baseball, veganism, radical politics. and kitties.” Perfect times two. This guy isn’t a violent nihilist like those who emerged from the trenches of the Somme. He’s just an angry white kid, a disinterested, lazy goof who hates his work and finds solace vegetables and kitties. And he, we repeat, is the “energetic” face of the Left these days.
In other words, welcome to the “resistance” in the era of Trump: middle-class, well-educated, pissed off, and thoroughly bored. Not exactly a recipe for a new political “movement.”
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